I’ve never attended a small town hanging before. It’s quite a different affair than it is in the city. As I’ve mentioned before, in the city public executions are festival days in all but name. In Arbeven it was a very solemn scene, which was surprisingly but makes sense when you think about it – that’s what should be normal for people losing their lives. I wonder if it has to do with the method. In the city, with a gallows, a trap door opens up and wham, bam, boom the guy is dead in a snap. The old rope thrown over a tree branch method is a different kettle of fish. It takes a while. There’s really nothing festive about watching a person dangle on the end of a rope and slowly suffocate. And if there was it wouldn’t last through six individual hangings. On the other hand the Quiviras gave me some clothing more appropriate to my fake standing so all in all it was a fine day.
The bandits didn’t have much to loot other than their longbows – but longbows are worth a pretty penny. One wonders how scum like that end up with them and why they don’t just sell them instead of trying their hand at banditry. Even if you’re dead set on banditing can’t you bandit just as well with slings? The key to banditing is controlling overhead right? Maybe I should try it someday, just to get a feel for it. Lord Quiriva was happy to pay me a bounty and keep the bows for his guards and I was happy to have some coin in my possession again. I never realized how much better I felt with some money in hand – makes me feel safer somehow. I’m going to need to find a better way to transport it though, can’t have all this money clanging around in my pockets.
After the hanging and a delightful patio brunch with the Quiviras, I gathered with my rescuees for a brief moment. Mertlers was content to make his way back to Dunwich alone while the rest were going to be staying in Arbeven for the time being except the farmer’s wife who I would escort back to the maybe loving arms of her husband in Uthden. They were thanking me for saving their lives and being the grand hero that I am when I spotted across the town square a familiar face. Actually it was the jacket I noticed before the face – a shiny black number with silver stitching in what were meant to be interpreted as arcane symbols, which was looking only a little worse for wear. It took me a moment to remember who the handsome by forgettable face above it belonged to.
I slipped up behind him and put my dagger to his groin “You have a lot of nerve showing up here after what you did Tario.”
He started to spin up a lie out of whole cloth but looking over his shoulder he saw who it was and quickly a look of amusement came over his face “Ela? Is that you?”
I smiled and sheathed my dagger “Actually no, it’s not Ela, I’m the Baroness’s beloved cousin come to visit.”
He smirked “Is that so?”
“Well you know how these noble types are, they always losing family members for decades on end only to have them turn up later. They really should keep better track of them. What are you doing out here in the country? Who’s there to swindle out here? You talk some farmer out of his prize pumpkin?”
“I’d be more interested in the farmer’s daughter than his pumpkins.”
“Trust me, you’re better off with the pumpkin and a sharp knife. Things get to hot in the city? You laying low out here?”
He glanced back at a group of men looking our way without trying to look like they were looking our way “I’m working on something. Maybe we should talk.”
“We’re talking right now. Is that your crew over?”
He beamed with pride “That’s right, those are my bodyguards.”
I snickered “Bodyguards? Maybe those two on the end, that one with the knives looks like a killer, but the rest? I know rent-boys when I see them. And that one on the other side? He looks more like a scholar than anyone useful. What are you dragging fancy lads like that out into the countryside for?”
Tario got a sour look on his face “You were always a sharp one. Give me a minute to talk to my people and then we’ll discuss things.”
Minutes later we were in the solarium of the Quiviras compound enjoying some nice sherry. Tario was looking around in wonder.
“You always manage to land on your feet don’t you Ela?”
“Except when I land on my magnificent ass. So what’s the con?”
“On the other side of the woods there’s a town called Preen. Preen is more or less the personal dominion of a fellow by the name of Razmiran Jarko. Raz you see was a nothing and a nobody in his youth, but he made his rounds at the gambling tables and one night he won a ship from a fellow that some might call a pirate captain. I’m sure the good captain had no intention of honoring the bet but she got herself killed that very night and Razy-boy sailed away with his winnings. Turns out he wasn’t much of a sailor, the ship ran aground in the Razors and he abandoned it, but not long afterwards he turns up in Preen and pretty much buys the entire town. Raz had found the pirate captain’s treasure cache, wherever she had hidden it, and set himself up with his own little domain.”
“A real rags to riches story.”
“Absolutely, I’ve managed to get myself in Razmiran’s good graces to a small degree as a smuggler of sorts, and I have been able to confirm that he’s got a king’s ransom in jewels stashed away. All I need to do is relieve him of that burden.”
“And how do you plan on doing that?”
“That part I hadn’t figured out yet. I brought Deacon and Dottlev because Razmiaran’s preferences lay in that direction and I brought the scribe along because I know there’s a puzzle-lock of some kind to get to the loot but I don’t know exactly what the move is yet.”
I smiled “And you’re willing to cut me in huh? For what, just some good faith money? A little coin for expenses?”
He put his hand to his chest “Ela, you wound me. I would never try to work you. You know the old expression, you can’t cheat a cheater.”
“Of course you can.”
He winked “You know that and I know that, but they don’t know it.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. I’ll think on it. I’m sure I can come up with something.”
“If you do come find me in Preen. I’ll be staying at the Demon’s Bride Tavern. Don’t take too long though because if I crack this one myself I won’t be waiting around for you to show up.”
“Of course, of course, act now! This opportunity will only exist for a short time!”
He laughed and we parted ways. After a few minutes I looked through the contents of his pouch which I had lifted. Tario is a pretty good conman but he never learned the fine art of picking pockets. Aside from some coins and gems he had a list of local taverns – not sure if that’s for work or pleasure – someone’s lacy smallclothes with an insipid love note, a crude map, some false papers and a fake signet ring. As I examined the ring I thought about the ring that I had lost, well not lost, was taken from me. I don’t get sentimental about things for the most part but I had that ring most of my life and it made me sad and angry that I would likely never see it again.
The fake wasn’t a great one, but I put in on my finger anyway. It made me feel a little better. After sitting for a moment in thought I gathered up the farmer’s wife and we set off for Uthden.
Funds: 240 platinum, 7 gold, 6 silver
Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring, Map, False Papers, 2 carnelians
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince
Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle
the butler , Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire
Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror,
Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe,
Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family,
Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale
Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna
Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer,
Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin